Aliens

The aliens were everywhere. They had been “immigrants” or “ex-pats”. They thought they had psychological issues and went to see the psychiatrist (who was in the old days called an alienist.)

They weren’t crazy. They weren’t normal though, and that was the point. Normal people were miserable. They complained more than they thanked. They weren’t happy with what they had, no matter what it was, even if it was what they had wanted. They had been programmed to minimize their success. Only complaining was allowed.

Saying things like “I’m good. I’m really blessed. I love my work and my family. I have a great life.” was met with suspicion if not outright incredulity.

So the aliens came, in the form of gods or rock stars or TV talking heads or even self-help gurus. They came to teach a better way but the people were so used to being sick and tired and anxious that they just couldn’t believe they didn’t have to be. They were so used to being half that being whole wasn’t normal to them. Especially when they were told that they didn’t have to do anything – not take a pill or eat a root or even exercise. They just had to accept the new Script that they were healthy. “Fake it till you make it” had become fake it in order to make it. They had to reprogram themselves, to learn that they were not broken, not damaged, not addicted.

Society told him otherwise, because sickness is marketable. Dis-ease has a dollar sign. The well don’t need a doctor after all.

So the aliens came, not to invade but to immunize, to inject a vaccine against melancholy and mediocrity. But they had to be sly about it, because the natives had been programmed to kill all aliens, all “others”, all those who were different or strange, because that was how the disease replicated.

(written mid July 2019)

New rules, old door.

There was no knocker on this door.

There was no doorbell either.

It was opened by appointment only, so it did no good to just show up – or to be late or early. It was on time or nothing.

It hadn’t always been this way. But she’d read about rules for the queen of England. You couldn’t touch her unless she initiated contact. Not a handshake, not a pat on the back – nothing. She was the one who would reach out first. It seemed like a good rule for everybody – not just monarchs. It would certainly start very instances of sexual harassment.

She’d first thought it was a good idea for just women, but then thought it would be a good rule for everybody. Men had been harassed too. Men had been victims too. And whether the encounter was between people of the opposite sex or the same didn’t matter. Boundaries and consent mattered for everybody, all the time. Even if an interaction had occurred before. Even if you were married, or family. Every time you touch somebody there must be consent.

The guys who acted badly – maybe they had never been taught otherwise. Nobody has said “No, that isn’t right”, so they assume it is OK. This is not blaming women… but how can men know how we feel if we don’t tell them? They do not have the same lived experience. They can’t empathize with being groped, ogled, cat-called. They don’t hear “Hey baby, why don’t you smile?” Or “That dress looks hot” or “while you’re down there” with a smirk and a glance to the crotch to a female coworker who is digging something out of a cabinet at their feet. They don’t hear or experience this, and they are told that having a woman, a “piece” (not a whole, just that part, not a person), is what makes them a man.

It was time for new rules for an old door.

It was time for things to change.

Nobody got through unless she invited them.

Ever.

No matter who they were.

(written early June, 2019)

Give up.

She might as well give up. It worked for finding a husband. Maybe it would work for a friend. This door looked unlikely – more tomb than treasure. But then again, all the likely doors had been dead ends.

Maybe there was something to giving up, after all. Maybe she needed to stop trying to have a friend, or a group of friends. The ones who wanted to hang out with her just wanted her for her ear, or shoulder, or heart. They wanted to lean things on her, weigh her down. But the scales weren’t even. Was it her fault? She never unburdened herself on them. If they were treating her like they wanted to be treated, then maybe she should. But that had often led to ridicule, dismissal, or worse – betrayal. A secret kept was a secret that was safe. It would never sneak around the corner to surprise at inappropriate moments. In the past she’d had to suddenly switch gears, act indifferent instead of shocked that her secret was out. That took away some of the power. The teller would see there was no weight to it – no value in the retelling. It wasn’t a secret that could be used as blackmail. But then she knew she could never talk to that person again, about anything. A person who thought secrets were for leverage wasn’t a person worth keeping around.

And how about the friends who ghosted her on social media? No use trying to private message or request friendship again. Any person who would leave without explaining wasn’t worth the time.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. What is the same true with friends?

(Written late May, 2019)

Safe house

All the missing people were here, on the other side of this door. Well maybe not this exact door, but one like it in shape or color, if not style.

They all came here eventually, either on their own or with a guide. But even that wasn’t guaranteed. Guides could only come here once and then they had to disappear too.

There were plenty of robin’s-egg blue doors, and plenty of others that were arched. Not all of these were part of churches, but many were. Churches were the best place for secrets, after all.

Perhaps it had started with confessions, where deep sins were revealed and had to be hidden away. It wouldn’t do to have anything escape the confessional. Then word would get out and nobody would come. Without confessions, the church might as well cease to exist. Those relieved of their burdens were often so grateful that they tithed more. It wasn’t a one-to-one correlation, you understand. It wasn’t as if the priest said “say 20 Hail Mary’s and put $200 in the offering plate” but it worked that way anyway.

But there were plenty of other lost people who came through doors like these. People who’d lost their way in the world. People who didn’t fit in. People who were unwanted, or who just felt that way.

Children weren’t allowed, at least not in this kind of sanctuary. There was a sort of asylum for them, there had to be. Plenty enough children went missing over the years, so there had to be places for them. But this place was permanent. This place was no turning back. This place was more serious, more forever than marriage. There were vows here too, legal documents to sign here too, but there was no change of heart when things got tough. To be more accurate, hearts could change but the situation wouldn’t. No matter how much you begged or pleaded or cried, you could never go back through the doors into the real world. This was your world now.

Plenty came who were turned aside, deftly but firmly informed that there was no such place here. They left, confused, still searching. Perhaps they would find a different clue, overhear a different snatch of conversation. Perhaps they would locate another safe house entrance. Those who were turned aside were fleeing problems – money, love, drugs, either too much or not enough. They wouldn’t last here, wouldn’t be able to knuckle down and get to the business of really living this new life. They would be the first to want to leave and the last to settle down when they finally were made to understand there was no going back.

This new life was more permanent than marriage, more permanent than a tattoo. Both of those could be erased.

Re-branding

Finally, on a Wednesday they walked through the door at the bottom of the garden. On the other side, all identity was erased. No longer defined by race, or gender, or religion, or nationality … anything. This meant the pros as well as the cons. It all had to go. Now just a number, X17359 was a little sad, because some of the old identities were useful and conferred a bit of priviledge. But there was no way to separate the wheat from the chaff with this process. It all had to be burnt away in the purifying fires of re-branding. Even the new “name” was as un-unique and vague as possible, with no accompanying meaning for or against. The “names” were even randomized so people couldn’t brag about how long ago they had walked through the door. Not like they wanted to, not after that experience, but this way there was no chance of temptation.

For you see, nobody was forced to walk through that door, a nobody who had gone through mentioned it to others. It wasn’t advertised, but everyone knew about it, one way or another. Some thought about it every day until they finally just did it, and for some it barely registered with them and they never did. But they all knew. It was encoded in fairytales and scripture. It was woven into pop lyrics and advertising jingles. It was never overt, but it was always there. It was kind of like a pattern you could only see when you had polarizing sunglasses on. It was hidden in plain sight, but only those with eyes to see noticed.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow she would go through the green door.
Tomorrow, not today. This is how it must be.
Today, she had to pass it by, with its peeling paint and the missing name-plate. Whose name had been there before? Was it absent to make space for her? Who would answer these questions?
Today, she would finally stop to admire the climbing vines, the red flowers. She would smell deeply of their scent, accepting it as a gift, as incense, as an offering to her, or a blessing. 
Or a warning. 
She’d walked by this doorway every day for a dozen years.
Tomorrow, she would place her hand on the door, take a deep breath, and walk inside, knowing that she would never pass through that doorway again. 
Tomorrow marked the end of her old life. 
But just today, she would live as she always had.